I am traveling home to Kentucky from San Francisco, California on April 2 to celebrate Easter and my grandmother Marmie’s 80th birthday. This flight brings a glimmer of hope and optimism as I just received my second dose of the Moderna vaccine. The trip from San Francisco to Louisville is one I’ve made dozens of times. This time it looks different as we are still amidst a pandemic.
I spent the first 10 months of quarantine in Kentucky where I have seen my fair share of anti-maskers. The quarantine rules were less strict and businesses and restaurants opened back up much sooner than those in other states. I kept strict social distancing and tended to annoy my family with COVID safe tips. Marmie was the most vocal about her annoyance and sadness over my COVID related “strict” social distancing policies. She frequently tried to sneak a hug as a greeting when we saw each other and was increasingly irritated every time I avoided her hugs.
This April trip marks a small change in the middle of this year-long journey, a change that I hope is a turning point, as I have been fortunate enough to receive the Moderna vaccine. Marmie has also been fortunate enough to receive a COVID vaccine and therefore, according to current CDC guidelines we are safe to hang out inside together, something that I have not been comfortable doing since the pandemic started. So, after over a year of refusing to give sweet Marmie a hug, just in time for her 80th birthday, I will be giving her the best birthday present I can think of, a great big hug. I never would have expected such a simple gesture to be a momentous occasion, but here I am giving a hug as a birthday present. If I can say anything about the pandemic, it is that it has taught me not to take anything for granted.
I was in Kentucky from March 2020 to January 2021, and I was excited to return to my college town this semester. While home, in this unique pandemic situation, I had the opportunity to connect with my family in the middle of my college experience. It was a blessing in disguise as it is not a usual college experience to spend excess time with your family, especially when your college campus is 2,000 miles away from home. Through this experience, I grew closer to my family, notably my older brother, and was able to learn how to open and close a store, experienced quite a bit of my hometown and some other valuable life experiences that turned into lessons. While 2020 was not something that I ever imagined or planned for, I’m thankful for what I learned throughout the year.
However, after almost a year of living at home, it was time for me to move back to San Francisco in January 2021. Moving back to San Francisco in the middle of a pandemic was not a choice I made lightly. I had already missed almost a year in my college town, a city that I will likely never live in again after college, and I wanted to get to experience as much of it as possible. On top of missing the city, I was faced with a weird class and extracurricular schedule and a three-hour time difference. This combination pushed me to look into moving back to the city. Despite the hassles that come with a move and outrageous rent, in the end, I decided they were worth it to move back to the city.
I can confidently say that life during a pandemic is just weird, no matter where you are located. However, with the rise of vaccinations and the possibility of hugging my grandma without putting her in danger, there is hope for a new normal on the horizon.